June 17, 2008 // 2:34 pm
- The initial shock and awe of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has come and gone, and it's now time to reflect on Hideo Kojima
's recently released opus. Though MGS4 is no doubt a stunning game and many would argue evidence for videogames being treated as art, it's by no means perfect.
Having just completed the game and spent some time in Metal Gear Online, I'm here to share my gripes about the game. Being a long-time fan of the MGS series, it's frustrating to see MGS4 turn out the way that it did, but I suppose it is what it is.
Be warned, I don't have any criticisms of the story, but I do discuss the gameplay in each Act of the game, so if you don't want anything spoiled, best to just move on.
1. No reason to be on the Playstation 3
Why is this game on the PS3 again, besides Sony likely throwing a ton of money at Konami to keep it exclusive? It doesn't utilize the Playstation 3's strengths at all. The previously shown SIXAXIS support is nonexistent in the final product, with only one small sequence that uses it, to poor effect at that.
And don't tell me they needed the storage space for Blu-Ray. We all know it was merely an excuse for Kojima to use uncompressed audio throughout the game. Throw some lossy compression at the audio (that 99% of users will never notice) and this game could fit on a single dual-layer DVD.
2. SIXAXIS/DualShock 3 triggers are terrible
I had never noticed it before playing Metal Gear Solid 4, but I've certainly heard the complaints over the last 18 months: the Playstation 3's triggers are terrible. Maybe they're great for racing games, but a game like MGS demands that they be digital, or at least not so damn squishy.
Quick-switching inventory items is an exercise in frustration, while figuring out the threshold for how hard to press when you want to keep it depressed is just as difficult. Give me back my DualShock 2 please.
3. Gameplay is basically Metal Gears of War
Please forgive that horrible pun, but I couldn't resist. When Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came out and turned the MGS series on its head, I loved it. I was ready for something new, and the jungle environments, camo system, and necessity to survive made MGS3 an experience unlike any other Metal Gear games before it. Add on to that the fact that Snake Eater has the best story in the history of the series, and you've got a title that forever changed the way I play videogames.
Metal Gear Solid 4 tries to innovate in the same way, but falls flat on its face. Of the five Acts in MGS4, not a single one feels like classic Metal Gear. Act 1 introduces you to the familiar series' mechanics, and while it's probably the best Act for sneaking, the game instead coerces you to go in guns blazing in order to gain the friendship of the local militia. Act 2 might as well be the next SOCOM game.
It feels like MGS3 at first, but then you remember that you're supposed to help the militia and find yourself caught up in massive firefights. Act 3 is the most innovative and definitely a gamble on Kojima's part, but lots of folks don't like tailing a guy for an hour through a deserted city.
However, the chase sequence at the end is spectacular and definitely makes up for it. Act 4 shoves nostalgia down your throat, but let's not kid ourselves. For a moment you might think the series has returned to its roots (especially because you're back at Shadow Moses), requiring you to stealthily evade, knock out, or CQC human guards, but then you realize that instead you're still just fighting robots. Break out the shotgun and grenade launcher and go to town. I would forgive using robotic enemies so much if the game actually gave you a few more chaff grenades.
At least it's got an epic boss battle at the end. Act 5 isn't even worth talking about in terms of gameplay. It's two hours of cutscenes with 10 minutes of gameplay. This late in the game, I couldn't help but feel cheated every time control was wrested away from me for another cutscene. By the time the game was over, I found myself asking "Is that it?" Let's keep in mind that several of the emblems that get unlocked upon completing the game require a play time of less than 5 hours total. If that's not a damning indicator of how little there is to do in this game, I don't know what is.
4. No Boss Battle mode
The boss battles are easily the high point in the gameplay, and even manage to redeem some less than stellar Acts, so why not let players experience them on their own once they complete the game? Don't place the onus on players to keep save files just before bosses if they ever want to battle them again.
5. No Theater mode
The Theater mode included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence was one of my favorite additions to the remixed version. Along with a way to watch the game's cutscenes, there were hilarious parody and outtake videos tossed in as well - no such luck in Metal Gear Solid 4. We'll likely have to wait for the inevitable release that comes out in a year with everything that's missing from the original version: Metal Gear Solid 4: Subsidized.
6. No VR missions
I've already complained about the lack of substantive gameplay in MGS4, but that at least could have been remedied with VR missions. Add in missions like the Snake Tales from MGS2: Substance or the VR levels from MGS: Integral and suddenly you've got a lot more for the player to do after they've exhausted the main game in 15 hours, with over half of that being cutscenes. Like the previous omissions, count on this gripe being remedied in an upgraded MGS4 release down the line or through downloadable content. My money's still on the former.
7. Way too many cutscenes
I understand that it's a Metal Gear Solid game and that means lots of cutscenes, but MGS4 is just ridiculous. Congratulations Konami, you made a 10 hour television mini-series and tacked on 4 hours of uneven gameplay. The story itself focuses on characters that were never even pivotal to the storyline before. Suddenly we're supposed to care about Naomi Hunter and tolerate her as a principal character, placing more emphasis on her than Meryl, Big Boss, and even Ocelot?!
8. Konami ID system is a joke
The Japanese just don't know what the hell they're doing with online gaming. Nintendo's approach is to make gamers swap 16-digit codes, while Sony sanctions MMO-style games for the PSP like Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Universe without online play. Meanwhile, Konami's abortion of a system for Metal Gear Online immediately brings back memories of Square's interface for Final Fantasy XI, only somehow worse.
Just to clarify, you need no less than three distinct accounts to play Metal Gear Online: a Playstation Network ID, a Konami ID, and a game ID - all with unique names and passwords. Hope you've got a good memory and an hour to kill before actually getting into your first MGO game. Get with the program Japan. Look at Xbox Live. Look at Steam. Until then don't waste our time with half-baked online endeavors that will probably get shut down in 12 months for the next slightly changed iteration in the series.
9. Region locked multiplayer
Is it so hard to ask for an option to allow players in America to compete against those in Japan and Europe? I understand that lag can be bad when you're going across the seas, but at least include an option. There's no reason not to give players the opportunity to find out who truly is the best in the world. Until the option appears, we can only guess.
10. Ridiculous install system
I've come to accept games needing installations on the Playstation 3. I'm alright with that. I can even give MGS4 a pass for needing an install at the beginning of every act because it gets you into the game much faster. Rather than waiting 20 minutes to do a full install just once, you only have about a 10 minute wait the first time, then about a 2 minute install at the start of each Act - not a bad system, or so I thought.
The problem becomes apparent once you start loading saves from earlier in the game, or just to decide to start over and are presented with installation screens all over again. That's right, every time a new Act installs, it deletes the previous Act's data, rather than just appending to it. So every time you go through the game, you will be staring at installation screens. I guess we know why there are no Boss Battle and Theater modes.
If Konami had simply included an option to do a full install just once, 10GB or whatever it need be, I would have used it in a moment. Instead I'd best just take up smoking as a way to kill time between Acts, which ironically enough, is exactly what Snake is shown doing on the screen while you wait.
You'd probably think I hated Metal Gear Solid 4 based on how much I've bitched about it, but you'd be wrong. I still consider it to be one of the best games yet from this generation, and the first great experience on the Playstation 3 - that just doesn't mean it's perfect.
I don't regret playing it for a second, and it's a brilliant conclusion to the Metal Gear saga, but I can only hope for a remixed version in a year to fix most of my complaints. Based on Konami's trends, I think it's safe to say that it will happen.
How about yourself? Have you played the game and do you share my complaints? Are you still on the fence and my comments dissuaded you? Let us know in the comments section!